Longform recently selected Dean Starkman’s Confidence Game: The Limited Vision of News Gurus, as one of the best articles for 2011 in media.
Starkman’s article, which was published in the Columbia Journalism Review, and is now available as a digital short for Kindle, Nook, and iPad, takes on what has become a dominant perspective on the future of news in the digital age as personified by three well known media thinkers — Jay Rosen, Clay Shirky, and Jeff Jarvis — who have dominated the “future of news” debate. Starkman makes a powerful case that the perspective that these three represent, despite their many useful insights, is in the end corrosive to public-service journalism.
According to this consensus [as elaborated by Shirky, Rosen, and Jarvis], the future points toward a network-driven system of journalism in which news organizations will play a decreasingly important role. News won’t be collected and delivered in the traditional sense. It will be assembled, shared, and to an increasing degree, even gathered, by a sophisticated readership, one that is so active that the word “readership” will no longer apply. Let’s call it a user-ship or, better, a community. This is an interconnected world in which boundaries between storyteller and audience dissolve into a conversation between equal parties, the implication being that the conversation between reporter and reader was a hierarchical relationship, as opposed to, say, a simple division of labor.
Not surprisingly, Starkman’s articles has generated a fair amount of controversy. As reported in a post on the Melville House blog, Clay Shirky has responded to Starkman in his essay Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis